Thank you for contacting me about Newcastle United and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
It is my understanding that a proposed takeover bid for Newcastle United FC involving Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has been withdrawn.
I appreciate that many Newcastle fans were hoping this takeover bid would go ahead and can understand their sense of disappointment. This was entirely a matter for the parties concerned, with no involvement from Government. Ministers did not hold any discussions with sports national governing bodies or sports rights holders on the potential sale of Newcastle United FC. Any sale is a matter for the interested parties, and for the Premier League to assess under its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
I understand fans' desire for clarity over the role the Premier League played in the bid withdrawal. Its Chief Executive has now responded to enquiries from several MPs. He stated that there had been a dispute over what information consortium members would need to provide to satisfy its Owners' and Directors' Test, but one of the members withdrew before this could be resolved. The Football Ombudsman has stated that this response "should meet the supporters' request for clarification" and he would continue monitoring developments.
I would like to assure you that Saudi Arabia remains a human rights priority country for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, particularly because of its use of the death penalty and restrictions on women’s rights, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion or belief. It is right that the UK Government continues to raise its concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities using a range of Ministerial and diplomatic channels of communication, including its Ambassador and the Embassy team in Riyadh. The Foreign Secretary raised the UK’s concerns with Saudi Arabia during his visit in March this year.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP